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Frequent Fatigue? Could It Be A Sign Of Coronavirus Or Just A Seasonal Infection?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Along with fever and cough, fatigue is now one of the top three signs of Covid-19 and also post Covid condition. It may take the form of sudden extreme fatigue or may gradually get worse with time. Fatigue usually occurs early in the disease and may even be one of the first warning symptoms of Covid-19. 

It is important to understand the difference between regular tiredness, chronic fatigue and fatigue caused by the coronavirus, i.e., pandemic fatigue. In most cases, you may just be tired after a busy day. However, most reports show that fatigue in Covid-19 affects people of all age groups and genders.    

The difference between Tiredness, Chronic Fatigue and Pandemic Fatigue

Regular tiredness happens to us regularly, leaving us feeling less energetic. It may also be accompanied by body aches (especially if you have had a physically active day) and you may feel sleepy. That brings us to the key difference between pandemic fatigue and feeling tired – sleep or rest usually fixes feelings of tiredness, so it lasts only a few hours at most.

With Covid-19 related fatigue, however, most viral infections for that matter, getting a good night sleep and taking rest typically will not bring back your energy and strength. Fatigue is characterised by this fact: that your body feels tired and you lack the energy to do even small tasks despite getting ample amounts of rest. And unlike tiredness, it may persist for several days or longer.

The separation between pandemic fatigue and chronic fatigue is a little more nuanced. Chronic fatigue is usually caused by infections, mental health issues, hormonal disorders, genetic disposition or other health issues.

So if you find yourself unable to perform simple, low effort tasks and you wake up still feeling exhausted even though you are sleeping enough, it may be a sign of chronic fatigue or the early symptoms of Covid-19. 

If you’re struggling with fatigue, know that you’re not alone – about 8 in 10 adults who get COVID-19 experience fatigue during their illness (and for kids, it occurs about half of the time).

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Why does Covid-19 cause Fatigue?

Although it is still not fully understood, the current consensus in the medical community finds your immune system as the cause of this condition. When your immune system first detects the virus, it immediately starts trying to destroy and get rid of the intruder. This process takes place much before you ever feel any other symptoms of Covid-19 like cough, cold and difficulty breathing. 

This phenomenon is not limited to the coronavirus that is responsible for Covid-19, it is common for other viral and bacterial infections too. As your body releases certain chemical mediators to deal with the threat of an infection, the effects of this battle within your body can leave you experiencing sudden extreme fatigue even in the earliest stages of the disease. 

Of course, since this effect is not limited to just Covid-19, your fatigue may be caused by any of the other sources mentioned above. So how can you properly identify what’s causing your fatigue?

Myalgias (muscle pain), muscle loss, and weakness are frequently observed in patients with COVID-19 and might persist for several months after infection, viral infections in general are known to cause prolonged weakness and fatigue.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

How to identify if your Fatigue is caused by Covid-19 or something else?  

If you are definitely experiencing fatigue and not just tiredness, the question remains – is this one of the early warning symptoms of Covid-19 or is there some other cause? Covid-19 fatigue is usually accompanied or followed by a fever, cough, chills, body aches, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea and loss of smell. You may not be able to correlate the level of tiredness with the extent of your physical activities. 

The common symptoms of Covid-19 are evolving due to the newer variants of the virus. The list of symptoms you should look out for includes skin rashes, reddening of the eyes and digestive system issues. 

It should be noted, however, that typically, the other symptoms show up later while fatigue is thought to set in within the first seven days of getting infected. So it is best to rule out other causes when you notice that you have fatigue.   

Speak with a doctor if you are unsure what is causing your fatigue and they will work to identify or rule out the common causes. It may be that you are experiencing side effects of your medications, a mental health issue or that you have a hormonal issue. In any case, your doctor will be able to guide you on the best steps to take to move forward. 

Don’t ignore the early warning signs

While feeling sudden extreme fatigue may not seem alarming, the fact is it may very well be your earliest warning sign of Covid-19. With time, the disease progresses and inflammation increases, the risk of developing major symptoms is high. 

It is important to monitor fatigue, whether you see it in yourself or your loved ones around you. Keep in mind, the pandemic fatigue that is linked to Covid-19 affects kids and adults alike, so monitor your children as well. If you or your doctor suspects that your fatigue is being caused by the coronavirus, do not waste time, isolate yourself and get yourself tested immediately. Early detection is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe from the most harmful effects of Covid-19. 

Also Read: Felty Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Research-Backed Treatment Options

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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